Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Bad News, Part I

A frequently ignored aspect of American affluence in the last half century has been access to cheap sources of energy. Those days may be numbered:

Oil prices hit a record high of $97 a barrel on Tuesday, but the next generation of consumers could look back on that price with envy. The dire predictions of a key report on international oil supplies released Wednesday suggest that oil prices could move irreversibly over the $100 a barrel threshold in the not too distant future, as the global economy faces a serious energy shortage.


Economic growth in India and China will eventually strain energy sources with new demands. Even the oil industry is conceding that a new era is upon us:

The soul-searching may have already begun, as oil executives begin sounding the alarm about the supply crunch that lies ahead. Last week, Christophe de Margerie, CEO of the French oil giant Total, told the Financial Times that even the target of 100 million barrels a day is an optimistic one for an industry that currently produces 85 million — far short of the 116 million barrels a day the IEA projects will be needed by 2030 to fuel the global economy.

And in a sharp departure from the usually reassuring comments offered by Big Oil executives, De Margerie said companies and governments now realize that they have overestimated the amount of oil that could be extracted from places difficult to reach and costly to explore. "It is not my view, it is the industry view," he said. In other words, the message is that the current sky-high oil prices may not be a temporary burden on the world economy.

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